How to Break and Make a Habit

With New Year’s Eve fresh in our minds, many of us have made resolutions. I know mine was to finally take action with my physical health and get fit. For years I’ve worked on my emotional and spiritual health, but my physical health has always lagged behind. I’d much rather enjoy a fatty burger while watching TV than eat a chicken salad and go for a walk. Even though I enjoy the burger option in the moment, I must admit that I always feel much better when I am consciously making healthy food choices.

I have a bad habit of eating poorly. I also have a bad habit of placing physical exercise at the bottom of my priority list.

I have a good habit of making myself a coffee every morning. I also have a healthy habit of sharing my feelings and thoughts with my husband.

We all have habits, customs and patterns that we regularly follow until they become involuntary; for example, looking both ways before crossing the street. Habits are learned behaviours or thoughts that when practiced often, become second nature. They can be positive or negative, life giving or toxic.

Habits work differently for everyone, and for some people can take longer than others to break. While looking at habits, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Breaking

Does this particular repetitive behaviour or thought habit

  • Increase or decrease your ability to cope with, general day- to- day life?
  • Cause harm, or long term damage/stress?
  • Get in the way of your goals or things you’re working to achieve?
  • Take up too much of your time?

If you have identified an unhealthy habit in your life, here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of success in the habit breaking process.

  • Take small steps. Focus on small achievable goals and don’t try to do everything at once. (So, instead of “I’m going to go for a walk every day this week,” begin with “I’m going to walk twice this week.”)
  • Choose one habit to work on at a time. (Instead of “I’m going to quit eating fast food, walk everyday and spend less time on my phone,” start with “I’m going to quit fast food.”)
  • Make a plan. Keep a journal and record the habit you want to change, write down specific plans to achieve the goal. (Rather than writing “I will quit fast food,” write, “I will prepare my meals the night before so I am organised.”)
  • Repeat your new replacement behaviours and thoughts as often as you can. The more you repeat something the more likely it is to stick!

Making

Now that we have looked at breaking negative habits, let’s look at what we can do to make healthy habits.

  • Set small attainable goals. Just like this helps us break habits, it helps us form new healthy ones. Make a plan and work to achieve the goal. Make sure you reward yourself once you do.
  • Use triggers to your advantage. A trigger is something that leads you to automatically do something else. For example, many smokers are triggered to smoke after a meal. If you plan to read every day after breakfast, then after a few weeks you’ll automatically think about reading after you’ve had brekkie.
  • Make it fun and easy. The more difficult and time consuming it is to do something; the less likely we are to follow through. There’s no way you will stick with something if you don’t enjoy it. Get creative and find ways to make your new change positive and enjoyable.Remember you want this new habit to add to your life, not take from it!
  • Get support. Having a friend who knows what you are trying to accomplish is powerful, they can encourage you when your willpower fades.

Lastly, don’t get discouraged! We can always change; it just starts with making a decision and taking the first step. Success doesn’t mean we can’t fall down, it just means we choose to keep getting up again. Whatever this year brings I pray it will be a year of empowerment, focus and change.

‘”Healthy things grow, and as they grow they change” – Christine Caine